It was close all the way and the Carey boys never quit, but the taller Troy Trojans decided to rebound and attack the basket Wednesday in a first-round game of the 16-team State 1A boys' basketball tournament in Caldwell.
Troy out-rebounded Carey 30-19, shot 48% from the floor and put three players in double figures. The only thing Troy couldn't do successfully was control Carey senior D.J. Simpson (23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 assists and 6 blocked shots).
"It was a tough match-up for us against a player like D.J. Simpson," said Troy coach Guy Wells. "By watching film we knew Carey was a good rebounding team so we knew we had to go hard to the boards and attack the basket against them."
The result was a 56-47 Troy win over the Northside Conference and Fourth District champions from Carey (21-4) that put another stamp on the passport of White Pine Conference teams from northern Idaho's Second District into the championship round of the 1A small schools.
Defending champion Genesee (21-3), 2006 winner Lapwai (21-3) and 2005 king Troy (18-6), the three White Pine representatives at state, all advanced into the championship round—Genesee handling Richfield (23-2) by a score of 62-49 and Lapwai winning 59-45 over Garden Valley.
"They're a tough league," said Carey coach Dick Simpson about the White Pine. "We stayed in it all the way but Troy got us on the boards."
In contrast, the five Fourth District teams at state had a tough slog, going 2-3 Thursday. Only Hagerman (18-8) and Murtaugh (17-7) advanced into the championship round. Hagerman upset Boise-area champion Cascade (20-4) by a low score of 36-33 and Murtaugh needed double overtime 47-43 over Rimrock.
Carey, knocked off by a White Pine team in the first round for a third straight year, tried to regroup Thursday against Council (16-10), a 53-45 loser to Clark County of Dubois. A win there would have put Carey into today's 11:45 a.m. consolation semi-final at Vallivue.
The 1A consolation championship game is Saturday at 9 a.m. at Vallivue High School while the 1A championship starts at 11:30 a.m. at The Idaho Center in Nampa.
Carey had high hopes that its strong man-to-man defense would take the Panthers a long way in this year's tournament—and the Panthers started well Wednesday. Their ball-hawking defense caused Troy fits in the first period and helped Carey to a 12-11 lead at the break.
Troy coach Wells said, "Carey did a good job to start the game."
Carey coach Simpson likes to say that this year's Panther team doesn't have a dominant player, but it sure looked that way in the second quarter when D.J. Simpson started "feeling it." He blocked a shot and drilled an NBA-style 3-pointer and netted a 17-foot jumper, giving him 13 points in 12 minutes—and Carey led 19-13.
The lead grew to 21-15 when the other dimension of Carey's first-half offense came into play. That was D.J. Simpson penetrating and dishing off to Tyler Parke (16 points, 7 rebounds) for an easy two points.
It was Carey's high water mark.
The Trojans, getting contributions from their deeper bench and turning unforced Carey turnovers into baskets, ran off a 12-2 streak to end the half and take a 27-23 lead into the locker room. Troy's top scorer, 6-3 senior Jason Smith, nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Coach Simpson said, "Troy started getting those second and third opportunities."
He acknowledged that Carey never got into a good offensive flow against Troy. Simpson and Parke accounted for 39 of Carey's 47 points. Without a true point guard, Carey had to rely more on D.J. Simpson bringing the ball up—and that reduced some of Carey's attack options.
Troy's Smith, despite game-long foul problems, scored 6 of his team-high 15 points in the third quarter, helping the Trojans to a 38-28 lead. Engineering the Troy offense and drawing quite a few charges to take the air out of Carey's sails was true senior point guard Riley Nelson (14 points, 4 boards, 5 assists).
Meanwhile, the ball started bouncing Troy's way after the half. "It's good to be lucky at state," said Trojans coach Wells. Coach Simpson had another view. He said, "A couple of little things going our way would have made a big difference."
That's because Carey managed one final run, with D.J. Simpson scoring 7 points and Parke 8 in the fourth quarter. Troy's lead slipped to 40-37 when Simpson stole the ball and hit his second 3-pointer from the top of the key, and it was 44-41 with 3:18 left when Kade Peterson made two charities and Troy's Smith went to the bench with his fifth foul.
Parke's clutch basket on an inbounds pass from Peterson (4 points, 3 assists) cut Troy's lead to 48-45 with 1:43 left. But Trojan guard Nelson responded with a driving basket, and then 6-2 Nick Garrison (13 points, 9 rebounds) rebounded a Nelson missed drive to make it 52-45.
Carey ended with a 36% field goal shooting percentage and actually had fewer turnovers (15) than Troy (17). But Carey's turnovers were mostly unforced and seemed more devastating, while Troy's turnovers were caused by Carey's pesky defense.
"It's tough to lose the first game at state," said coach Simpson afterwards, his team's seven-game winning streak snapped. "I just told the kids in the locker room that they'll have to come out of there and look ahead at what we have to do next."
For the record, there are 10 Division 1 schools in this year's 1A tournament and six Division 2 schools by student population. The Division 1 schools went 5-3 Wednesday. Next year's 1A tournament will be separated for the first time, on a two-year trial basis, into Division 1 (over 100 students) and Division 2 (under 100).
Carey, Richfield, Murtaugh, Clark County, Clark Fork and Garden Valley are this year's Division 2 teams.